Premiumising that lunchtime menu

With figures from the VFI suggesting that nearly half of those visiting a pub do so to enjoy a meal, the importance of food has never been more prominent for the publican wishing to survive and prosper.

In competing with the growing number of eating-out establishments at the consumers’ fingertips, pubs need to be offering something a bit special to taste an increasing customer visit frequency.

Food, now essential to all-day customer appeal, represents a growth opportunity at breakfast, mid-morning coffee, lunchtime, afternoon tea and the early to mid-evening mealtime for the publican.

For the pub diner the deciding factors in choosing one pub over another appear to boil down to two main contenders: locally-sourced ingredients and more daily specials according to an earlier Mintel report on the subject.

“The strong interest in daily specials echoes the high importance attached by diners to the freshness of food, daily specials implying the use of ingredients available on the day and food being freshly prepared on-premises. Pubs are often seen as the hubs of local communities, so sourcing ingredients locally can be promoted as supporting businesses that form a part of that community”.

But limiting one’s offering to traditional dishes risks corralling one’s potential, warns Mintel.

In the UK the market researcher found that the majority of diners are keen to experiment with flavours.

“Seasonal menus can also forge associations with freshness by implying that dishes are prepared with the fresh food that is in season,” reported Mintel which found that UK diners could be broken down into those with a 41% preference for traditional British dishes, a 37% preference for seasonal menus and 15% for modern dishes. 13% expressed a preference for the same food menu all year round.

The growth in new technology was also referred to in that 2016 report which pointed out that, “The openness to electronic ordering should come as welcome news for pubs, many of them looking for ways to manage staff costs”.

This month Mintel has published a new report on pub catering in the UK which looks at trends in pub food.


Premiumising lunchtime menus

The new report finds that value-for-money pubs are fuelling the pub sector there.

“Diners want set menus and pubs are premiumising them to chase higher spending,” comments Mintel’s Foodservice Analyst Trish Caddy in highlighting a few of the findings from the report, “There’s potential to boost lunch sales given that diners are interested in lunchtime takeaway options. However dishes high in sugar, salt and fat may have to be reformulated if pubs wish to win favour with health-conscious diners. Under-45s are interested in using apps to book tables, pre-order and pay.”

The researcher found that 51% of diners were interested in lunchtime takeaway options leading it to speculate that, “Pubs that wish to push into the lunchtime market should consider coming up with a smaller lunch portion of classic pub dishes as well as portable and easy-to-use packaging to encourage more diners to buy pub food for lunch”.

Mintel put a value of 2.7% on the expected growth in value of the food sector in the UK in 2016.


Diners want set menus and pubs are premiumising them to chase higher spending,"comments Mintel's Foodservice Analyst Trish Caddy.Prevalence of daytime eating in pubs

It also found that people eat at pubs or bars during the day more often than they do in the evenings.

“15% of daytime customers go to a pub or bar at least once a week as compared to 11% of evening customers,” notes the report, “Men aged 18-24, those in full-time education and parents of under-fives are more likely to eat at pubs two to three times a month during the day.”

Some 83% of diners are interested in set menus while 82% are interested in meal promotions such as free courses (buy one starter and get one dessert free) reports Mintel, adding that 78% of people are interested in daily specials that change regularly.

From a survey of 1,741 internet users aged over 18 who visit pubs and bars to eat, Mintel believes, “There’s scope to chase higher spend from those who are prepared to pay more for a meal by premiumising set menus. For example, allowing diners to trade up to premium dishes within a set menu for extra money per dish.”


Health-conscious diners

The survey also finds that 35% of diners are most likely to be put off by dishes high in fat while 32% could be put off by dishes high in salt and 31% by dishes high in sugar.

“Pubs that provide nutrition and calorie information on their menus will help diners make informed choices for themselves and their families when eating out,” states the report, “Given that 45% of diners are put off by dishes that are not freshly made, venues that can offer the sight of food prepared in front of the diner will stand out from the crowd.”


Digital loyalty

Nearly six in 10 of those between 18 and 44 years-of-age and 40% of those over-45 agree that more pubs and bars should have online options to book tables.

“Cashless payment is a technology that people may have used in casual dining restaurants and fast casual concepts. “Pubs or bars that wish to act more like mainstream restaurants may attract younger customers who are willing to use cashless payments when eating out.

“This should create an opportunity to move loyalty schemes onto a digital platform given that online booking systems typically capture customer information, allowing pubs to create personalised offers for their customers.”

The findings in the report give Mintel to believe that meal promotions such as set menus and meal deals are driving footfall and pubs are premiumising these deals to chase higher spend from those prepared to pay more for pub meals.

“Given that diners have an affinity for traditional pub dishes coupled with an interest in lunchtime takeaway options could unlock opportunities for more pubs to play in the lunch market,” it concludes, “However, dishes high in sugar, salt and fat may have to be reformulated if pubs wish to win favour with health-conscious diners.

“Instead of wasting time queuing up at a bar waiting to be served, diners are interested in using apps to book tables, pre-order and pay”.


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